They just don’t want my money

Mass Effect is a wonderful game. Its story is one of the most interesting I’ve ever witnessed in a game. The atmosphere it brings over is very deep and impressive. It’s science fiction. It contains aliens and explosions, so it’s perfect for my taste.

Also, I like the role playing elements which contain just enough stats to make the leveling process interesting while not being overly complicated.

I bought Mass Effect for the XBox 360 back in December and played through it once, while being annoyed that I had to buy it in the (albeit very good) German version (it’s practically impossible to get English originals here in Switzerland) and annoyed about the awful, awful equipment and inventory handling that made it impossible to really know how you should equip your characters (in fact, I went through half of the game in the starting equipment because I didn’t understand how to actually put the items on).

So despite the immense replayability value of the game, I left it at that one runthrough. But I bought the Mass Effect book telling the story leading up to the events of the game.

And now, the game was re-released for the PC. Considering the fact that I actually bought the Mac Pro I’m currently using with PC-gaming in mind, I pondered with the idea of buying the game again for the PC. In English and with the fixed inventory screen (they actually fixed that in the PC version. yes. so it wasn’t just my stupidity).

This may sound crazy, but as I said, the game provides incredible value to replay it: Different decisions, different choice of squad members, even choosing different classes to begin with (though I would never even have tried to play a caster in the 360 version – the interface was just too painful for that) – everything has influence on elements of the story. Playing through Mass Effect only once is clearly a waste of a very good game.

With a 25 MBit connection to the internet, I though that buying the game online would be a reasonable request too. So here’s what I’ve tried:

  1. Buy the game via Direct2Drive. All seemed to go well and it even asked me for my credit card info. But then, on the final step, it told me that my cart was empty. And a little footnote informed me that Mass Effect has been removed from the cart due to country restrictions. Thanks for telling me in advance!
  2. On the web page of the publisher, there’s a link to the EA store to buy the game online. Whatever I tried, I could only get the shop to actually provide me with the US version of the game which it refused to “ship” (hello? This is a digital download) to Switzerland – despite me trying on June 8th, two days after the official launch in Europe.
  3. I tried to trick the EA store to sell me the game none-the-less by using paypal to pay for it, giving a fake US-“shipping” address. No dice though as paypal refused to bill my account due to the “shipping” address being different from the address I’ve entered in paypal.
  4. Sure that electronic download will not work, I went to the local game store I usually get my games from. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the English version of the game and won’t be getting it.

On a world where digital goods can hop from one corner to the next in milliseconds, on a world where everyone is complaining about rampant piracy, it is impressive how hard it actually is to timely and legally get the digital goods.

Here’s what I did in the end: First I began downloading the pirated version of the game and while that download was running, I went and bought the German version of the game. When I got back from the store, the download of the English version was finished. I’ve installed it, provided it with the serial number of my German original and then played it, using the German DVD as proof of purchase.

Why does it have to be so hard to actually buy a game these days?